Trailnet Promotes 'Walking School Bus' at MRH Elementary
The program aims to reduce congestion and pollution while promoting exercise.
Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights Elementary School now have an alternative to getting a ride to school, thanks to a new program coordinated by Trailnet.
The school district worked with Trailnet to implement a "walking school bus" program that encourages students to walk to school. In the program, a designated parent leads students along a predetermined route to the school, picking up additional walkers along the way.
"We have fun every day," said Anne Arias, who leads one of the routes. "It's a good way to start the day."
Mark Twain Elementary School in Brentwood also runs a walking school bus program.
Cynthia Cantrell, a parent of an MRH Elementary School student and school specialist for Trailnet, said Trailnet organizes the program with the school's parent teacher organization, works with administrators and coordinates the initial kickoff event.
She said the program is intended to reduce traffic congestion during student pick-up and drop-off times, cut down on pollution, provide students with "safety in numbers" while walking to school and promote exercise.
The program is funded by a $42,796 grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation, via the US Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program. The elementary school shares the grant—the largest safe routes grant awarded in Missouri—with five other elementary schools in the Webster Groves School District.
The funds cover Trailnet's administrative costs, engineering analyses of pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow at the schools, and pedestrian and bicycle safety classes. There is no cost to the school district for the program.
"What Trailnet is trying to do is build this into the culture of the school," Cantrell said.
Ideally, Trailnet can step back and let the district run the program in two years.
"It's a very minimal cost to a PTO organization to keep it going after that," Cantrell said.
Ongoing costs after the two year start-up would include such items as photocopy updates, incentive gifts for student participation and the cost of the kickoff events.
MRH currently conducts three walking school bus routes on Wednesdays: two that begin in the southern part of the district—at the corners of Flora Avenue and Sutton Boulevard, and Piccadilly and Oxford avenues—and one that begins in the northern part of the district at the corner of Wise Avenue and Highland Terrace.
Parents are updated on route issues such as cancelations due to inclement weather via Facebook and text messages. Cantrell said approximately 25 students are regular walkers, and that she hopes to add a route to support the east side of the district sometime soon.
"I'd like to see the program grow and expand," said Tony Arnold, principal of MRH Elementary School. "It's good for the environment and it gets the kids up and moving around and promotes healthy lifestyles."
Parents wanting more information on the program can contact Cantrell at 314-436-1324 ext. 102.